Detroit police and Guardsmen zero in on yet another sniper on Detroit's west side. At times the authorities were being shot at from multiple snipers yet in the fog of war there were times when
they were shooting at fictitious targets. While all five days of the riot had an eclectic blend of looting, arson and sniping, Tuesday would go down as the Night of the Snipers.
"Keep away from the windows or you will be shot."
On Sunday the looting started out as a casual grab bag, a pair of sneakers here, a fifth of whiskey there.
Then it became more strategic. As the dam of anger broke, the greatest targets became the pawn shops which wound up yielding 2,498 rifles and 38 handguns, many of which would play a deadly role in the days to come.
By Tuesday evening (July 25th), as darkness descended upon a wounded Detroit, the curtain began to rise for the third and final phase of the riot, sniping. Only this time, instead of civilian targets like grocery stores, now the authorities were to draw the ire of the rioters. Within a 50 minute period around midnight, nine different police and fire stations would be under fire by mad snipers who were venting their anger against the most visible symbol of the white power structure, the police.
Detroit's 6th precinct under attack - Detroit police and Guardsmen hit the deck as sniper bullets meant for them fill the air.
As was always the case throughout the riot, the hot spot for sniping was on the hellish West side and in particular the 12th Street - Linwood area . While a post mortem revealed that only one confirmed sniper was killed and, owing to the fog of war and confusion in the darkness, at times the Guardsmen were mistakenly firing at each other, clearly Guardsmen and police were under heavy fire on many occasions from legitimate, if yet unseen, snipers.
"It was like Vietnam"
At one time on Tuesday night the sniping was so severe on the West side that the authorities had to leave the area temporarily to regroup.Guardsmen sealed off the troubled area bounded by Clairmount, West Grand Blvd, Dexter and Woodrow Wilson. They divided the area into four and posted a company of 180 men in each sector. Two tanks roamed the 129 blocks, drawing sniper fire as they went. Sniper bullets pinged off the heavy armor, revealing the perpetrators concealment. Searchlight-equipped helicopters swooped low over the rooftops, bathing each building in an eerie glow in an attempt to illuminate snipers.
The police radio, alive all night with the sounds of distress, crackles with yet another incident, “Sniper fire off Lawton.” Detroit police from the Livernois precinct (the Bloody Tenth), state police and Guardsmen responded in force to a multi-story apartment building at 2753 Hazelwood in the heart of the riot area. The roads were all dark now. Authorities had been shooting the street lights out to reduce their silhouette to the snipers. The crack of a snipers bullet from the darkened apartment building pings against a jeep. The response is sudden and swift. Tracer bullets cut through the night sky like fireworks.
Detroit police enter the building and rush the apartment. Inside, sniper Jack Sydnor is waiting. As DPD officer
Roger Poikey crashes through the door he is met with a bullet to the abdomen. Under cover of fire from other officers, Poikey is pulled out. Tear gas canisters are lobbed in followed by more bullets. Sydnor is met with a withering fire and tumbles backwards out the third story window to his death. Outside, state trooper Jerome Lange, crouched behind a jeep, is felled by another unseen sniper. Someone foolishly looks out their window to see the action and is meet with a hail of bullets. The metallic voice of a Detroit police officer barks over the bullhorn: "Stay away from your windows or you'll be shot."
Guardsmen tank roars up Linwood Avenue in search of the snipers who had wounded police officers. They blasted away at entrenched snipers with their .50 caliber machine guns in a ferocious gun battle that wounded at least one sniper and put the rest on notice.
Over on Linwood the story is much the same. A reporter who tagged along with Detroit police gave his shocking report: “It was as though the Viet Cong had infiltrated the riot blackened streets of Detroit. Snipers, in what sounded like at least two dozen locations, snapped off rounds as police and Guardsmen slid past the dingy houses. They were answered in quick volleys from M-1 carbines, blasts from shotguns and bursts from submachine guns."
Then the clanking whine of a tank hearkened its approach. The vibration could be felt some ways away as the great hulking beast lumbered up the pavement. Its 50-caliber machine gun roared in a 30 second burst, sweeping the roof of the building in question. Silence for a second, broken only by the soft sounds of moving troops. Another sniper round is squeezed off and the battle renews again.